Chris Pryor, Gord Murphy fired as Flyers continue shake-up

Chris Pryor, Gord Murphy fired as Flyers continue shake-up

Updated: 1:15 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — The firing of Ron Hextall was only the beginning.

The Flyers' front office wasted little time purging other personnel.

Flyers assistant general manager Chris Pryor and assistant coach Gord Murphy were fired Wednesday morning. 

Pryor was sent packing after 20 years with the Flyers organization. Interestingly, Holmgren elevated Pryor to director of player personnel in August 2013, but it was Hextall who bumped him up to assistant general manager in August 2016. 

Pryor was considered to be Hextall’s right-hand man and one of the few voices the former general manager would listen to inside the organization. Sources say Pryor’s stance was considered too closely aligned with that of Hextall’s. In all likelihood, the new GM would have elected to bring in his own assistant anyway. Pryor joined the Flyers in 1999 as a scout and served in that position for seven years.

It was Holmgren who told Hakstol, “If there’s anything I can do to help you do your job better, please feel free to come and talk to me about it,” following the firing of Hextall and the two sides wasted no time. The decision to fire Murphy was made “in close consultation” with Hakstol Wednesday morning.

Murphy was in his fifth season as an assistant coach working primarily with the Flyers' defense. He was hired by Hextall a year before Hakstol was brought aboard as head coach.

“In discussion between Paul and I, the decision was made based on what we felt was best for our group on the back end moving forward,” Hakstol said. “I don’t want to get into specific issues. It’s about the entire group.”

Fair to say, the Flyers' young defensive core of Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg has regressed in its overall play after showing significant improvements and steadiness in 2017-18.

“He was my first D-coach in the NHL," Gostisbehere said of Murphy. "He helped me a lot, complete my game sort of in some ways.” 

Interestingly, in the short term, Hakstol now has personnel decisions within his staff and his roster that he wasn’t allowed to make under Hextall. Placing Calvin Pickard on waivers was a sign that the head coach wasn’t too fond of his goaltender, who Hextall claimed off waivers just prior to the season opener in Vegas.  

"That’s a move that we felt we needed to make within our group," Hakstol said. "Picks has done a good job for us. He’s been a guy who’s been a great teammate for everybody in here and has gone in and battled very hard."

However, it’s debatable whether Pickard is even an NHL-caliber goaltender. He allowed four or more goals in six of his eight starts with the Flyers. Hakstol felt the goaltenders already within the organization gave the Flyers a better chance to win.

Anthony Stolarz and Michal Neuvirth were the only goaltenders practicing Wednesday. However, Neuvirth hasn’t been cleared for game action.

Here’s Holmgren’s statement regarding Wednesday’s transactions:

"The Flyers organization has relieved Chris Pryor of his duties as director of player personnel and assistant general manager. In addition, in close consultation with Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, Gord Murphy has been relieved of his duties as assistant coach. I would like to thank Chris for his dedication to the franchise and contributions over the last 20 years. Likewise, we thank Gord Murphy for serving behind the bench for the last five seasons and helping grow and develop our young core of defensemen. We do not anticipate any further personnel moves in the near term.”

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Johnny Gaudreau trade buzz? Flyers should only think about welcoming him for 1 game

Johnny Gaudreau trade buzz? Flyers should only think about welcoming him for 1 game

VOORHEES, N.J. — Johnny Gaudreau is coming to the Wells Fargo Center.

No, he did not get traded to the Flyers. He is playing them Saturday.

Moderate buzz has circulated on the beloved interwebs regarding the possibility of Gaudreau being dealt by the Flames. Rewind to 2018-19, the mere thought would have been chastised and deemed ludicrous.

However, Calgary is severely underperforming during 2019-20 after going 50-25-7 with 107 points last season, second best in the NHL to only the Lightning. The Flames are 10-12-3 and have lost six straight, a stretch in which they’ve scored 0.83 goals per game, while allowing 3.83.

When a team isn’t in the vicinity of its high expectations, bold ideas come to mind and serious questions are asked.

Kevin Hayes, who said Gaudreau is one of his best friends after the two played together at Boston College, understands this is a part of the NHL in today’s world.

“We haven’t talked about the trade [rumors] at all,” Hayes said Friday after practice. “He’s one of the best players in the league. I’m sure if they were winning every game, there would be no trade talk at all.”

Flyers fans, undoubtedly, know well of “Johnny Hockey.” Gaudreau is from South Jersey and played at Gloucester Catholic High School. The electric 5-foot-9, 165-pound winger has blown up on the NHL stage, becoming a five-time All-Star by the age of 26. He scored a career-high 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) last season.

Naturally, the local hockey fans will always hold out hope for Gaudreau coming home. The key word is hope. Right now, it is purely hopeful and for many reasons.

Think about the package the Flyers would have to send to the Flames. We’re talking about young, already established NHLers, top prospects and high draft picks.

The Flyers are in Year 1 under general manager Chuck Fletcher and head coach Alain Vigneault. A GM is never quick to give up on his plan or tamper with it to a great degree so early in a season, especially for one player. Fletcher and Vigneault like the club’s current state as they mold the Flyers into their own. The team’s younger cornerstones are starting to blossom, prospects are making an impact and they’re all surrounded by an experienced core. 

Whether some see it or not, there’s a lot to like.

Simply put, the Flyers are not in trade mode. Thanksgiving has yet to arrive and the Flyers are better than they were last year, having shown progress but with room for further growth. 

Can things change when the Feb. 24 trade deadline is closer? Absolutely, and that brings us to a guy like Morgan Frost. The playmaking center, along with fellow prospects like winger Joel Farabee and defenseman Philippe Myers, could have a loud say in what Fletcher and the Flyers aim to do when the trade market actually heats up. What might the Flyers need then?

Frost, a 2017 first-round pick with a bright future, has opened his NHL career by making a bang, scoring two goals and three points in two games. It has been only two games and Frost is only 20 years old. His ceiling, though, is excitingly high.

Farabee, a 2018 first-round pick, rapidly climbed to the Flyers and has shown flashes in 16 games. He’s a point-producing winger that can play all over the lineup. Finding consistency through the NHL grind at just 19 years old will be his challenge.

Myers, a 6-foot-5 blueliner with offensive skills, didn’t crack the Flyers’ season-opening roster but made his way back and has shown why in 10 games. The Flyers want to see the 22-year-old be sound and smart as best he can on a game-to-game basis.

“I’ve said this many times, talent has no age,” Vigneault said Friday. “I’m looking to have the best possible team that is going to give us the best possible chance to win. I don’t care if you’re 43 or you’re 18, whoever is ready to play and whoever is going to help us win.”

Gaudreau probably isn’t a thought right now because the Flyers believe in their kids and the process overall. Saturday is Game 23 for the Flyers. They’ll play the Flames. Gaudreau will come and go.

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Scott Laughton returns to Flyers, Nolan Patrick placed on long-term injured reserve

Scott Laughton returns to Flyers, Nolan Patrick placed on long-term injured reserve

VOORHEES, N.J. — In the latest salary cap juggle, the Flyers activated Scott Laughton from long-term injured reserve Friday and placed Nolan Patrick on LTIR.

On Oct. 26, Laughton suffered a broken right index finger that required surgery. With Andy Andreoff loaned to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, Laughton will return to the lineup Saturday when the Flyers play the Flames at the Wells Fargo Center (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP). The 25-year-old Laughton, an underrated depth piece with positional versatility, is one of the Flyers' top penalty kill forwards.

“Scotty, before that unfortunate injury, was playing good hockey for our team," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Friday after practice. "Him and Kevin Hayes seemed to have some good chemistry at the time, too, so I’m hoping that they take off exactly where they were prior to the injury. Scott is going to help us on the PK, also. He’s a good penalty killer. Looking forward to having him back in the lineup.”

Laughton underwent surgery Oct. 30 and was placed on LTIR the next day.

“I just wanted to be at a good grip strength where I could come back and not hinder the team with my play," Laughton said Friday. "That’s what I’m looking to do and I’m just excited.

“There’s some stuff in there that there’s going to be a long process no matter what. It’s a broken bone, so things have to heal and everything, but it’s good enough where I can shoot at full and battle … pretty much good to go.”

Patrick missed training camp/preseason and has not played in 2019-20 because of a migraine disorder. The purpose of putting Patrick on LTIR is for salary cap relief. The move is retroactive, which would allow Patrick to return when/if he's ready without the 21-year-old center having to miss 24 calendar days and 10 games.

Patrick has not practiced with the Flyers since toward the end of October, when he was starting to do so in a non-contact jersey.

"Nolan’s a player who will help us win a lot of hockey games when he gets back," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Oct. 31. "We’re hopeful. It’s a tough situation. Again, I won’t speculate because I can’t. I can’t predict what will happen. ... It would be hard for any human being to predict when that will all come together for him."

Here's how the Flyers project to look Saturday afternoon at the forward position:

Claude Giroux-Morgan Frost-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Joel Farabee
James van Riemsdyk-Michael Raffl-Tyler Pitlick

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